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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Learning about online sexual harm

Being online

Participants’ perceptions of spending time online were generally more positive than negative. While they recognised that harmful things can and do occur, they also emphasised the positive aspects of their online lives and wanted others to acknowledge these. This was also true for interviewees who had experienced online sexual harm, although they placed more emphasis on the risks associated with being online.

When asked about the negative aspects of being online, few survey participants explicitly identified the issue of online sexual harm. Their responses focused on more general online safety issues including bullying, hacking and scamming, as well as pressures associated with prevailing popularity and approval cultures.

Participants’ contributions clearly reveal that spending time online means navigating the simultaneous presence of opportunity and enjoyment alongside pressure and harm, sexual or otherwise. While it was apparent that many had developed strategies to manage this, especially as they got older, participants expressed a desire for:

  • action to be taken to reduce the pressures and risks young people face online;
  • further support on how to identify and manage potential risks; and
  • better understanding by adults of the realities of young people’s online lives, and more relevant messaging around, and responses to, this.
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